Yesterday I listened tothe podcast of my favourite arts programme, sadly shortly to come off air Saturday Review. Well presented by Tom Sutcliffe there are normally 3 contributors so the critique has the benefit of variety. An exhibition by the sculptor Eric Gill in Ditchling near Brighton came under review. Eric Gill was a renowned sculptor, his studies of animals are outside the BBC in Portland Place and his stained glass windows in the Catholic Cathedral in Victoria. His work fetches north of £5oo,ooo. His reputation has been tarnished by a 1989 biography which reveals abusive relationships with his two daughters and bestial one with his dog. The contributors were much exercised by the extent to which you could ignore his perverted personal life. There is apparently the true story of a petition to remove his name from one of the 100 Brighton corporation buses, each one dedicated to a local figure. The council defended his inclusion on the basis that if they looked at the personal lives of the other 99 they would have to abandon the scheme.
Later I listened to another excellent arts programme Front Row. This featured an exhibition by the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. His match-like sculptors are immediately recognisable and his work goes for north of £100m. He spent most afternoons in a brothel and his mistress, sorry muse, was a prostitute. The list of libertine artists – Toulouse Lautrec, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud – is considerably longer than those who led safe bourgeois lives. In music, Wagner was apparently a horrible man. To me you go or don’t go if you are that exercised. I prefer only to judge the work not the person who created it.